Showing posts with label story. Show all posts
Showing posts with label story. Show all posts

The Sishnu Chronicles – An Ode to 90s Parents and Teachers

10:05 PM
Writes: Bal Krishna

Growing up in Darjeeling today is very different than how we grew up. Today parents believe in raising their children in an environment so protected that even when they are wrong, they take a stand to protect them, and instead shift the blame on others. We didn’t have that luxury. Our parents believed in the hearts of their heart that only an anvil and a hammer can make a crooked iron straight. For them we were crooked iron that needed hammering every once in a while.

Among the very dreaded tools used to straighten us up, perhaps the “Bata ko Chapli –flip flops from Bata” was the most common, every mother would always have it “handy or feety” for they would be wearing them and whenever they felt the need, in a blinding movement, the chapli would be out of their feet and onto our head, before we even realized what happened.
Sishnu
Sishnu  
“Pani le ta chora… go fetch some water son” mom would say

And being the lazy kind, I would respond, “aaachhhh ek chin ma lyaunchu – in a bit”…

All I would see was a moment of flash, and Bata ko Chapli ko chaap on my gala.

That would sort me out immediately, my vigour recharged… I would call out truce

“Khai jarkin… khai jarkin?”

I am sure many must have lived these moments.

God forbid if anyone had family in the army, they would bring back Kohlapuri Chappal and that was more painful, cuz they were made of pure untreated leather... more painful and much more effective than Bata ko Chapli :)

But even before the Bata ko chapli, some of the most classic tools used to straighten us didn’t need any external devices. I don’t know anyone from Darjeeling who hasn’t lived through the phases of Toksing, Thappar, Ghussi, Kaan Tannu, Khatana (hair on your temple) Tannu and Laat… I am certain; my mom could have easily taught Bruce Lee a shot or two from these wide array of handy means to subdue a wayward opponent.

I remember to this day my 1st ever Mukh Chyateko – the one where Mom would put her two index fingers into our mouth and pull them in opposite directions, till our mouth was on the verge of tearing apart and we’d cry for mercy. What an ingenious way to make a mukhale chora/chori learn some manners.

I was very young, must have been 5 or 6 years old, and we had a function in our house. One Gaon ko Badi called me and I must have pretended not to hear… so she called me two or three times and finally when I looked up she was annoyed, so she said, “eta munti bhaneko suninas? bring your butt here”

I was a little dumb to begin with when it came to manners, and my mouth would shoot off stuffs, without my brain registering it till about 5 seconds later. So habitually, without realizing what I was saying, I said, “Tapai nai muntinos na eta…why don't your bring yours here...” on top of my voice.

I could hear the whole room go silent. Literally, there was a hushhhhhh in the room.

I knew, I was in trouble.

Then Mom came rushing towards me, “K hare? Badi lai K hare?” and then she Mukh Chyatus mine… I have never forgotten that incident, cuz that aligned my mouth to my brain connection and I started to think before speaking out.

What a cure that was.

Ekkai khep ma jati bhaye mo.

Today, they say “corporal punishment” is illegal. During our times, our parents would make sure to tell our teachers, “Ghar ma tyaakai terdaina, Sir alik tapai le thik pari dinu hos ta…. He doesn’t listen to us at home, please teach him some manners,” and they would say that in front of us. Imagine a parent giving carte blance – blank cheque to the teachers to “Thik Parus” us.

“Kaath ko Feet – wooden ruler” was perhaps the most common tool to straighten a crooked student in school. From anyone making noise in the class, to not completing home work, to not wearing proper uniform – three to five hits from the “Kaath ko Feet” would be the standard cure. Next day, all homework completed, proper uniform worn, no noise making in the class.

At times they would put pencil or pen between the fingers and push the fingers together, oh the horror of it. I still shiver at the sheer ingenuity of that trick.

I honestly feel our elders were geniuses in Psychological treatment of a wayward child.

Then there was this one time, I was still a kid, on a Sunday, walking towards Chowrasta with two of my friends, and as we started to walk up from Club Side (right below Keventers), someone from the road above dropped a lit cigarette butt. I picked it up, and my friends dared me. So I took a drag. The moment I did that, they said they would tell my Mom, I had smoked a cigarette, and they did (they are no more my friends).

Once we arrived at home, my Chema found a piece of Kalo Polythene ko Pipe, and the beating I got that day with it. I haven’t smoked till today, and that incident has helped me turn into an environmentalist, for I hate everything plastic. No plastic bags, no plastic buckets, and more importantly - no plastic ko pipes around.

As I grew older, my nature and extent of naughtiness spiked. One time a few of my friends, my elder brother and I ran away from school (school bhagera) to go swimming. None of us knew how to swim, but we all went to a khola nearby. When we got back to school, it had been around 5 PM. Baba was freaking out as he had come to look for us raicha, school got off at 3:30.

Man the agony of knowing you are gonna get a nice licking and waiting for that to happen.

Baba was in the Artillery and he had this ceremonial belt, which he would polish and keep “tillikkaaiiii talkeko – shiming” everyday, and being a military man he was a gentleman. So once we arrived home, he told mom to serve us food and mom gave us “dui dui ota roti – two rotis” and sabjee.

If there was a world record for taking longest time to finish two rotis, my brother and I must have broken it that day. We took over 3 hours to finish the two rotis, but Baba didn’t rush us. All he would say every once in a while was “ajjhai dhilo kha timaru… tara aju huncha toh haru ko Puja – take all the time you need, but you can’t deny the inevitable”… and he was right.

Man!! What happened that night, I cannot describe, suffice it to say, I still don’t know how to swim, and I think its overrated anyway. Let me put it this way, the shinny Artillery belt cured me of my dreams of becoming Michael Phelps forever. I am naturally allergic to water now.

Paani dekhda pani tarsine scene :)

But the mother of all tools was Sisnu (Nettle) Paani treatment… especially if the sisnu was Bhangre sisnu.

Does anyone remember using Sigaan (snot) as a handy cure to preventing Sisnu le poleko rash? To be honest, the relationship between Shisnu and Sigaan is what makes God infallible for me... So Sisnu polus you, and you cry your heart out and become siganai-sigan, and use that very sigan to ease the Sisnu le poleko pain... God is a perfectionist...

But, if I have to count the number of times I fell on Sisnu, or mom used Sisnu paani treatment on me, I would probably need a barrel full of Sigaan to subside the pain hola.

Naughty as I was, in my teenage years, I came home drunk once, and mom found out. That day she experimented for real, starting from Bata ko Chapli to Jhadu to Kuccho to Dadu Kucchin jel, she eventually landed with Bhangre Sisnu picked up from our bari.

Amamamama 15 seconds into Sisnu Pani treatment I became fresh, and a minute into it, my long dead ancestors must have become fresh too.

I didn’t touch alcohol for the next 10 years, and even now I can’t drink more than a half-bottle of beer. That Sisnu Pani treatment comes flashing back, and I would love to avoid it at any cost.

Recently, I was surfing the net and was shocked to find out that Sisnu is actually a medicinal plant raicha and it is used to cure painful muscles and joints, eczema, arthritis, gout, anemia, urinary issues, baldness, as well as allergies and joint pain, promote lactation, stimulate hair growth, help control blood sugar in patients with diabetes, reduce bleeding connected to gingivitis, treat disorders of the kidneys and urinary tract. Sisnu is even used to slow the spread of Prostate cancer raicha. All you got to do is, dry the plant and then boil it and drink it as tea for a month.

Imagine, weren’t our parent’s geniuses? Giving us medicine, without us even becoming aware of it?

Indeed, times have changed, and today people are more “sophisticated”, but thanks to our parents and teachers and their earthy sense of right and wrong, that has helped shape us into becoming who we are today.

Having said that, my Mom still tries to impart her “Bata ko Chapli” discipline on me, and I love it.... At times I just provoke her to see how she reacts, and every time her instincts guide her hand towards her feet, but now I can duck faster, while she swings slow.

What about Sisnu? You may ask…

Well as I was writing this, “Aju ta Sisnu ko Daal Khaun la Chora….” says Ama… I smile, with relief, of course, and say feebly “pakako hola ni?” unsure still :)

…and thus continues the Sisnu Chronicles…

[Dedicated to my brother Mohammed Asif whose pic, shared here, ensured that I wrote this article]
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Via The DC

Of Titaura and Kateko Suntala: School Days in ‪Darjeeling‬

10:48 AM
Writes: Bicky Sharma

Recently, during my stay in the plains, I would go around for a walk in the morning after waking up. What I would see were students waiting for their school bus on the side of the road, with a certain gloomy texture on their faces (obviously, my mornings would start late enough). It reminded me of the hills.

Having a nursery school just above my home, I witnessed a completely different scene here. The parents (usually moms), in their best appearance, come to reach their kids to school – holding their little hands and revising the lessons for class. The eyes of the kids start shining as they start meeting their friends and start approaching school. The kids enter the school with a smile and the parents still stay back outside the school having their share of guff-suff with the fellow parents. In fact, many of them make good friends in the process. The most amazing view is to see the kids walking “puldung puldung” carrying a bag of their size and a water bottle strapped around their neck – “naani parney LKG, jhola bokney 10 kg”.
Of Titaura and Kateko Suntala: School Days in ‪Darjeeling‬
School Days in ‪Darjeeling‬
The same kids return home with their parents’ after school with wai-wai, chocolates or tittaura in their hands, trying hard to frame their expressions in the short sentences of broken English. One could spend his whole day listening to a conversation between two classmates, embedded with lines like-“oi, tomorrow come fast okay” to “she kotharing (to scratch) on your face no?”

Takes me back to the days when I was at school.

Studying in Darjeeling has been one of the best experiences of life for me and it must be the same with everyone. From having the best of the teachers to the best of friends, your student life enriches you with all the best and funny moments, which you can only miss throughout your life.

You know you have studied in Darjeeling if you have treated yourself will the enthralling delicacies, that were mostly limited to the “bari ko dokans” outside the schools or certain selective shops.

Aludum, in its place, ranks the top spot in the list of all the delicacies. Every school has shops around it that would definitely sell aludum or some innovative derivates of aludum – like aalu mimi, aalu momo, aalu mama, aalu matar, and the list goes on. T momo, taipho, aalu thukpa, oranges sliced to half with spices sprinkled on them, slices of cucumber with acchar, tittaura (usually for girls), pepsi (ice cream of school times), sukkha matar (“class ma alchi laagda ko timepass”), beth gera, aaru cha etc were the things that school life enriched us with besides aaludum. We indeed used to take lunch from home that we finished within the first break itself.

How many of you haven’t made tattoos on hands with pen during school? There are so many things I remember vividly about schooldays. A school day itself would start with walking to school with your friends, meanwhile seeing students of other schools along the way. This little journey has in fact seen a lot of love stories, and even more “man manai love, man manai breakup” stories.

Every class would have monitors who would write the “talking names” on the board, where a few people’s name would proudly stand on the top every time; it would be me for my class, most of the times. Off periods would be the best part of the day, while break times would see serious games of chungi. Fights would often come up in class, which would end with phrases like “tero afterschool/after exams huncha”. I guess everyone has tried to bunk assemblies just for the heck of it, or bunk a class or two even.

Rainy season would see umbrellas piled up in the corner of the class and it would sometimes be a blessed feeling to sit through the entire day wearing wet socks. Forgetting an umbrella in that case was a usual affair. Coming to school or returning home during rainy season would be a strategic affair, putting every effort not to get wet. And sometimes you would have to use all your management skills to fit under an umbrella with two extra friends. Cold season had in its part a different flavour. It would be heaven to go outside in the sun after hours of sitting in the cold classroom.

From shaking hands with dozens of people while entering the class to banging the desks and singing songs during breaks, everything had its own share of happiness. One of my sisters from Loreto had however asked me to mention “favours”. I don’t know what it actually means, but the girls from Loreto would know, and if you do please mention it in the comments section.

The exchange of “Happy Holidays” and “Happy Dasain” before holidays, with all the happiness in heart; enjoying the end of the exams with your friends – everything captured in our hearts permanently, knowing that we are never going to have those times again.

The smiles that started to light up towards the end of the class, that would be brightest on Fridays of course, have been the most sincere smiles I have ever known. We all used to have a piece of cloth with us that would always be lying under the desk and would be used “jutta talkawnu” after school, before going home. No matter how smart you look before going to school, it’s a well known universal fact of Darjeeling, that you feel kind of “jhattey” while returning home. At least, the day would end with a shining pair of shoes and “chittikai mileko kapal”.

The whole school life story turns out to be a beautiful ode. Time has its monopoly over us and we fail to build a bridge over two different time periods; we can just manifest the memories – memories of hitting each other with chalks; memories of walking with two friends under a single umbrella; memories of cracking jokes with the teachers. The fragments of memories are held closely together to form a beautiful piece of happiness. The years of schooling at the most beautiful place of the world dissolves smoothly in your life to give it a beautiful colour.


Via The DC


A FICTION: The Day CM Wore Sikkimese-Nepali Topi

12:30 PM
Writes: Amir Gurung

“घाम चर्को लाग्दैछ... its getting hotter by the day”, mutters the village tailor in some far flung village of Sikkim. Nearby his son is meddling on the Android phone not paying much attention to what his father has just said. They are generations apart.

The boy seems to be engrossed in the phone and the old man mutters with a half angry tone, “के गरि खान्छ होउ यो केटा ले... how will you survive” The boy looks up for a while, shakes his shoulders, “टोपी सिलाउने विचार छैन मेरो... I am not going to stitch topis”. Then he goes back to his mobile…

The tailor looks up at the sky. In his mind he is thinking along these lines… sunny days means hot days, hot days means more people looking for topi, more demand for topi means more income and then we have all those good festivals coming up… aha! Business is going to be good now.

He looks down at the green house nearby his house. The organic डल्ले खोर्सानी, the रातो रातो अर्ग्यानिक टमाटर all ready to be made into some ‘Sikkim Supreme’ pickle product. He feels a sense of achievement.
The Day CM Pawan Chamling Wore Sikkimese-Nepali Topi
The Day CM (Pawan Chamling) Wore Sikkimese-Nepali Topi
He turns back to his son. “के गरेको मुबिल मा... what are you fiddling that Mubile for?”

“मूबिल होइन बाबा.. मोबाइल मोबाइल... हेइत कत्ति भन्नु होउ.. News पढेको बाबा Disturb नगर्नु होस् त .... its MOOBILE and not Muubile... how many times do I tell you that Baba? I am reading news, don't disturb me”

The tailor is hurt. Last time the CM was on one of his tours, he was impressed to know that he is still sewing the Nepali topi. The CM even wore it while addressing the people of the village. He looks at the boy and thinks, well, he knows more than me. Let me ask what the news is all about.

"के रैछ news मा... what's in the news?” The visible irritated boy tells him, “CM ले भनेको हामी चैं Sikkimese नेपाली हरे... अरु चैं सबै गोर्खे हरे... the CM says we are Sikkimese Nepali, while everyone else is a Gorkha”.

And then in the most emotive expression of the information he has gained from ‘intellectuals’ over Facebook, the boy explains to his tailor father, the difference between the Sikkimese-Nepali and the Nepali people living just beyond the Teesta. He tells his father how the other Nepalis are the "Gorkhas who came to be recruited from Nepal in the Gorkha Regiment and how the Sikkimese-Nepali were living in Sikkim from the ages past…"

By the time the son finished practicing his theory session on the ‘History of Sikkim and Beyond’, the tailor father is thinking deeply with his age old wrinkles twisted in confusion.

“ए ए ए ए तेसो भा अस्ति मैले सिलाको नेपाली टोपी CM ले लाउनु भाको थियो नि… त्यो चैं Sikkimese-नेपाली टोपी पो हो? So the Nepali topi which I had sewn and CM has won is Sikkimese-Nepali topi?”

The son is back on his Android. He is not listening. All he mutters is, “हेत्त बाबा तपाईंले बुज्नु हुन्दैन क्या. तपाईंलाई थाहनै छैन इतिहास चुप्पो लागि टोपी सिउनु होस्... ahhh Dad you won't understand much... you don't know our history... let it be.. focus on sewing the topis”.


Via TheDC

To Vote For a "Brighter Future," When All The Choices You Have Are "Dark"

9:26 AM
Writes: Bicky Sharma

“Dinu, uth na aabo. Vote haalnu jaadainas? Aaile duiso feri bhir huncha.” – shouts Dinu’s mom, to which Dinu replies “Jaadai garnu tapai, aaile keta haru sita awchu.” She then leaves for the polling booth, reminding him again to make it fast.

Dinu is a young guy. Just 19 years of age, thin and lean, he is a student at some college somewhere in Kolkata. He has travelled all the way to Darjeeling just a day before to cast his vote. To be honest, he has no interest whatsoever in the elections or voting, but then he didn’t want to miss the only nearest opportunity to visit home. Dinu maybe young and still at the learning stage of life, but then today he has to make an independent decision, he needs to decide who would represent him and his people.

Its time for Dinu to go for voting and he is waiting on the street below his home for Deepak. Deepak happens one among the two closest friends of Dinu, the other one being Chuppi, who happens lives “2 Golai” below Dinu’s place. Few minutes of wait on the street and a small bit of conversation with the neighbourhood ko ”badi”, mostly involving “ka chas, kasto chas?”, and Deepak arrives. “Chitto hin, Chuppi tala parkhi raako cha harey ” says Deepak and they move down the street towards the polling booth, collecting Chuppi on the way. Chuppi and Deepak, both are graduation students in the same college in Darjeeling itself. Deepak happens to be a serious and focussed guy and he is more
excited about meeting Dinu than the elections. Chuppi on the other hand is a “I give a damn” kind of a guy, not worried about most of the things around and happy to keep himself happy. His actual name happens to be Rajesh, but then, nobody knows him by that name, and he is as much worried about the elections as a goat is worried about chickens.

As they carry on their way, Deepak asks Dinu about whom would he vote. A small discussion tries to blossom, just when Chuppi interrupts,” k hawa hawa ko kura gari raako haw timaru.” The topic gets replaced by the planning of the three friends hanging out after a long time. Chuppi and Deepak flow with the conversation and the topic shuffles on to their college and its recent hot hearsay.

Meanwhile, Dinu has something else running in his mind. It is the first time he is going to vote and he at least wants to make it fruitful. He has heard people talking a lot about the contesting parties and all the criticisms and favouritisms come to his mind one by one, as he tries to calculate things as per his understandings. He has heard that the ruling party has been there for a quite a long period of time but haven’t been able fulfil their promise. What he votes them again and the same thing continues for 4 more years? Now he looks at another party, the ruling party of the state. The apathy of the state government towards his people doesn’t even make him think twice. Then he thinks
about the communist side of the list and the pain and agony of the past comes to his mind. He has heard that people his people had suffered to extremes during their tenure. Now, for the last choice,
the newly formed regional party comes to his mind. Dinu is not politically enlightened, but he is quite sure that the newly formed party is just a differently named wing of the state run party. He has
heard and read a lot about that and also assessed all the theoretical evidences. All the other names in the list are foreign to Dinu and he doesn’t want to waste is vote on NOTA either, as he has travelled all the way down for it.

The thoughts keep on bugging Dinu’s mind as they reach the voting area. The polling booth is arranged in a small primary school and it is surrounded by the uncles and aunties of the neighbourhood representing their respective parties, who remind the trio about whom to vote each time they cross one of them.

Dinu stands on the long queue waiting for his turn to come. The line soon leads him inside the booth and he still has nothing clear in his mind. A moment of wait before the voting machine and finally he does it. A long beep marks his exit from the booth and he reluctantly takes the voter’s mark on his index finger. We don’t know whom Dinu voted for.

Even Dinu doesn’t know if he did the right thing, but he hopes that his vote counts for the right of his people and place. Hopes that he has used his education and knowledge to help eradicate the darkness from the hills.

Bikal Rai gets a Laptop and Dongle as gift from Chief Engineer from Mumbai

8:51 PM
Sikkim 2nd April 2016 A person from Mumbai had called Bikal Rai more than four years ago after he saw a first Facebook post about Bikal Rai a self made engineer from Sikkim. After he called Bikal the man from Mumbai had a dream to do something for Bikal Rai. His dream came true when he met Bikal in Gangtok today. He gifted him a brand new Laptop and new Dongle.

His name is Jai Shree Ram he came to Sikkim from Mumbai to meet Bikal Rai. He gifted a Laptop and Dongle to Bikal Rai saying these gift for Bikal bhai is from him along with his two friends from Mumbai and a friend from Singapore. Mr. Shree Ram also gifted Rs. 7500 to Bikal Rai thinking that cash will help him to get his Dongle recharged some time.



Bikal Rai gets a Laptop and Dongle as gift from man from Mumbai
Mr Shree Ram also visited the home of Bikal Rai to greet his mother and to query about her health conditions. He's a Chief Engineer in Mumbai Airport. Shree Ram Sir has more dreams about Bikal Rai. He wants to see Bikal Rai in America someday and to make it possible, Shree Ram shared his views with Bikal Rai. Shree Ram also gifted a rechargeable lamp so that Bikal Rai can study in night, in case if there's no electricity.


Via Sikkim Messenger

Ever Enduring Nostalgia of Road Cricket in ‪Darjeeling‬

3:25 PM
Writes: Bicky Sharma

“Life is what happens to us when we are busy making other plans”- John Lennon.

When I look back in time I see a lot of changes that reflect in every aspect and dimensions of my life as well as the life of the hills. Fortunate enough, our childhood days didn’t see the arrival of computers and mobile phones and even more fortunate that a bunch of friends and one laal-patthar each were enough to call it a smooth day.

I look at kids these days and notice how they are indulged in gaming and social networking, they hardly know the fun of outdoor sports, unless of course it is a formal playing at school or sports clubs. Times were different when we were kids. Most of the time was spent outside and we had a variety of games and sports that kept us busy for the whole day.

If I went on talking about all the games that we had, it would take days and still wouldn’t be sufficient. I however vividly remember a few outdoor street sports of our time, just thinking of which gives me a beautiful nostalgia.
Nostalgia of Road Cricket in ‪Darjeeling‬
No cricket field? No problem! This was the "Darjeeling cricket stadium". Pic via nocrustnoproblem
Darjeeling is a football crazy place as we all know and it had an important contribution to our childhood. We would play football through all stages of a ball’s life- from a new ball to tubeless ‘bora haaleko’ ball with all cobbler stitches around. That doesn't mean we didn’t enjoy other sports. We had equal enthusiasm about cricket and we used to enjoy it to the fullest during the cricket season.

Life was not as easy as these days. Cricket bat used to be a rare kit and usually only one guy in a group would have a bat, luxury items of our time. And about ball, playing with a tennis ball would be a once in a blue moon affair, that too if we were to visit somewhere else for a cricket match (bet). Else, handmade balls (kaagaz/plastic ko) would compensate to the lack of funds and ensure that we never went out of play.

The ball, I must say required skilled hands and systematic process to get ready. The process started by selecting a perfect stone for the core of the ball, round and of the desired weight. It would then be wrapped by layers of paper, addition of each layer would be followed by the step of compressing it to make the ball compact. The endless supply of papers would come from the used notebooks of the past (asti ko paali ko khaata haru) or old newspapers. The last layer would be of that of a plastic to save the paper layers inside from the friction of the concrete road. When the ball would be ready with perfect weight and structure, it would be tied up with rubber bands all around, to keep it intact and give it a bouncy finish.

The only thing we needed to buy that way were rubber bands which would cost 1-2 rupees, the amount of money we used to get ‘mithai khanu’ from home those days, to which I am sure many kids these days would laugh. But those were the reality of the days, kids got see a beefy amount only on very lucky days. And sometimes when you didn’t even have that 1-2 rupees, the only alternative left would be to look for “katteko chungis”.

So now having everything ready, the cricket match would start (a serious one). Rules were simple: Generally, the off side would be closed (as for the fear of losing the ball down the off side). The bowler should be bowling round arm delivery without bending the hand (Toppay bowl not allowed). Wicket would usually be a big Tin Box (Pujari Tel ko), or a Chair or Pira held on to the road using a brick, or stump made of cardboard or sticks... and it would be the wicket keeper’s duty to remove the wicket if a vehicle came. The other wicket at the bowler’s end would be a brick. The game would be paused if the vehicles and people were to pass by. The run distribution would be declared in clear words “Straight ma sulkera goko Chauka, Urera goko Six, Maathi vitta ma laageko Duggi (two runs), Off ma sulkera goko run chaina, ball kattako out.”

And the most important rule “Joley kattawcha tesle Ball tipera/khojera lewcha”.

The ball would roll down the culprit side as many a times and searching for the ball would be a normal practice throughout the match. Most of the times, habituated to the exercise of looking for the ball, one would already know where to look first.

In our case, it was the root of a nettle plant where the ball would go and get stuck most often (sisnu ko jhyang vitra).

Failing to find the ball by oneself, the other guys would finally come down to join the search with praises and compliments like “Yesle ta aankha dekhay po ball khojthiyo” and “tero aankha ho ki aalu ho?”

The ball used to be an asset in itself, a way to the happiness.

What remain fresh are the memories of hitting the ball at someone’s roof to losing it into the drains; From making perfect balls for cricket, to making lighter version of the same to play luckoo/pittu (I don’t know what they call it in English or what other names they might use to refer to it).

The road now has beautiful houses on both its sides and no longer serves as a playground. The passerby no longer give expressions like “kasto maanchey hidney baato tira kheleko, aafnu aafnu ghar agari gayera khelnu ni”. Baato muni ko Badi no longer has to say “aabo ball aayo vaney chai kattai dinchu”.

Kids are safe before the screens and no longer need to find an explanation for the bruises on their hands or knees.

Via TheDC


Bhima & Puja's journey From child labour to Bengal's Under-14 girls' hockey team

9:14 AM
Vivek Chettri

Darjeeling, Feb. 16: Bhima Chettri and Puja Kachu were victims of child labour not too long ago. Today, the two youngsters are representing Bengal in hockey with Bhima even captaining the state's Under-14 girls' team.

Bhima, a resident of Rimbick in Darjeeling subdivision, was seven when she had been sent to Kalimpong, about 100km away, where she had to help a family in domestic chores. "I was told that I would be sent to school but that never happened," said Bhima.

Puja, from Mainaguri in the Dooars, too, was sent to Kalimpong to work as a domestic help at about the same age as Bhima. Puja's story was just similar: "I, too, was told that I would be sent to school but the family didn't keep the word."
Bhima & Puja's journey From child labour to Bengal's Under-14 girls' hockey team
Bhima Chettri and Puja Kachu Bengal's Under-14 girls' hockey team
Life was difficult for the two until help came in 2012.

Sister Subeshna Thapa, director of Bal Suraksha Abhiyan Trust, which is based in Kalimpong, and her team that has been fighting child labour since 2006 managed to bring a ray of hope in the lives of the little girls.

"We want the society to know their stories so that everyone can learn a lesson. In 2012, we approached the family where Bhima was being kept and convinced them that what they were doing was not right. The family agreed to let Bhima go. In Puja's case, we had to conduct a raid with the help of police and rescue her from her employer," said Sister Subeshna.

The two girls were sheltered at the home run by the trust and sent to St Michael's School in Darjeeling. The school changed the duo's life.

Prakash Rai, who coaches the school hockey team, said: "I must say the two girls picked a lot of hockey within a short span."

Such has been their growth rate that the two were among the six girls selected from Darjeeling district to be part of Bengal's Under-14 hockey team.

And it was no surprise that Bhima was made the captain of the Bengal team at the 61st National School Games, which was held at Ranchi, Jharkhand, from January 4 to 8.

Speaking over the phone from Calcutta, Krishna Mondal, manager of the Bengal team, said: "Yes, Bhima was the captain of the team and the two girls were good in their category. It would be great if they could come and stay in Calcutta and pursue hockey."

The team won two games but lost to Jharkhand in the quarter final.

Bhima, who studies in Class VIII, goes to her family once in a while. She has parents, four sisters and five brothers. In fact, just before she was to leave for Jharkhand, Bhima suddenly did not feel like going. "I really thank Sister Subeshna for making me realise the opportunity that lay before me," said Bhima.

While Bhima's family is aware of her success, Puja has never gone home after her rescue in 2012. "We have learnt that her father is no more and mother is untraceable. Still, we are encouraging her to visit the family before the school reopens. She is planning to visit her family in the Dooars this week," said Sister Subeshna.

Puja, a Class VII student, has three brothers and a sister.

Both Bhima and Puja practise about three hours at the school every day. "When it rains, the hockey team trains in the school hall," said Rai.

While hockey is providing a ray of hope to the young girls, the duo have not yet thought of pursing the sport professionally. Surprisingly, both want to join the police and for the same reason. "I want to be a police woman so that all the evils of our society can be ended. I think police can do much but in many cases they look the other way," said Puja.

Source Telegraph


Chandra Sharma to fly self made helicopter on Republic Day

9:04 PM
An Indian Gorkha, Chandra Sharma, from Dimow Syamjuli village in Dhemaji District of Assam, have dedicated himself to building a Helicopter on his own which he will attempt to fly on 26th of Jan, 2016 – Republic Day.

According to reports on The Darjeeling Chronicle Mr. Sharma has been working on this helicopter since 2013 and the project is self financed as he has spent close to Rs 15 Lakhs from his own pocket towards making his dream come true.

The Darjeeling Chronicle on its post wrote "We are inspired by Mr. Sharma’s dedication and we are hopeful that his hard-work will pay dividends with the helicopter flying successfully on its 1st attempt. We are also hopeful that this incredible act of passion will inspire thousands of our Youths to take up their passion seriously and succeed in it.
Gorkha from Assam Chandra Sharma to fly self made helicopter on Republic Day
An Indian Gorkha, Chandra Sharma, from Dimow Syamjuli village in Dhemaji District of
Assam will attempt to fly on 26th of Jan, 2016 – Republic Day.
We wish Mr. Sharma all the LUCK and we are looking forward to reporting successful Flight Test on the 26th."

AN ODE to Those LOVE LETTER Days…

8:31 AM

Writes: Bal Krishna 

"बैनी मेरो साथी को चिट्ठी थाप्चौ हरे – would you accept my friend’s letter?" if you ever said these words or made someone say it for you, or heard someone say it to you, you have a wonderful moment to reflect upon. 

The other day my wife and I were reminiscing on how things were different when we were young and she remembered the 1st “Love Letter” she received from me. In fact she still has it, and showed it to me. It’s funny, my 1st letter to her is not in my own handwriting, and even she knows that (now ), but as I read that letter, all the nostalgia and memories of my younger days came flooding back, and I was compelled to write this piece… those days truly deserve an ODE.

This write-up is to take you guys down the memory lane, when things were plain and simple and you said or rather you wrote what you felt, in person. This write-up is an ODE to the times we grew up in, when love was meant to last forever, and when the first step towards winning your beloved’s heart was to write her an amazing letter. 

I miss our times, and I am not very old, just crossed the threshold of 35 and yet in this technology driven world, I am already outdated. To the internet generation and smart phone era kids, the idea of writing (literally) and not typing or texting your feelings to an unknown person may come as a surprise and you may think of it as outdated, but for us who were born in the 1980s and grew up in the 1990s – writing a letter baring all your feelings to your loved one, was the only way to connect, often the only way to communicate. 

This is how it worked.

We’d see someone special in school (if you were in a Co-ed), or on our way to school or college or tuition during Madhyamik and start to develop a crush. Often all we knew was the face/person, we didn’t even know her/his name or where they lived… देखेरै लब पर्दिने सीन हुन्थ्यो… I don’t think there is an English equivalence to this phrase; but the closest could be “love at first sight”… 

“Modernism” as we know it today, hadn’t yet seeped in Darjeeling culture, and even though Darjeeling was always an open society, teenagers feared their parents, teachers and worst of all their meeting some elder from their village while trying to woo a girl/boy, as these elders would invariably rush home and complain to the parents, which naturally was followed by a Sisnu-paani treatment. 

So when you saw a girl/boy and started to crush on her big time, you found a way to get your feelings across and the best way to do so was by writing a letter to her/him. Once the letter was ready you would either hand it over to your crush in person or send one of your best mates to do so for you. 

Often the approach would look something like this… you’d go to the person you had a crush on and the 1st thing you’d say is… “Hi… I have been seeing you for a long time, I really like you, will you please accept my letter?” or send your friend to her/him who would start with the lines, “my friend is really in love with you, will you please accept his letter?”

Often the girl or the guy you had a crush on would have an inkling that someone was interested in her/him, so the ball would be on their court and if they said “Thapchu or ok I will accept” it was an indication that they were interested in you as well. 

Imagine the significance of that letter now. Your crush has agreed to read what you have to say, and if s/he will go out with you entirely depends on that letter or yours. Literally the 1st love letter could either make or break your relationship. 

As we all know, not everyone is good with words, so there would naturally be those who couldn’t express themselves well, like me. I was lousy with emotions and lousier with words. I could never bring myself to write an essay or a letter to the Headmaster, let alone write a love letter. This is where the letter writing experts came in. In our growing up days, these people were literally the most coveted and cherished friends, who could not only write amazing letters, they could do so in flowing calligraphy. Which is what explains the fact that my 1st love letter to my (now) wife is not written in my own handwriting. 

Now when I reflect on it, I find it funny that I tried to woo my (now) wife with a Shayari on the very first line raicha followed by equally corny lines… here is the shayari in my letter… 
“देखे मैले एउटा परि…
आँखा अघी झझल्को घरि घरि 
संगै संसार सजाउने सोचेंको छु 
उस्लाईनै मैले रोझेको छु” 

My wife now says, she found these lines super cute, I am not so sure. Reading what I wrote then, after almost two decades, I am not sure if she fell in love with me, or took pity on me or my pathetic attempt at Shayari… funny thing is, that was not even my Shayari, those lines were written by the “expert letter writer” from our class Dawa. 

Dawa was a legend; it was rumored that any girl who read his letter would never say no. He could write letters while sleeping, and the girls would swoon over it. 

Call it ironic, but tragically Dawa did not have the courage to hand over a letter to his crush, he delegated this responsibility to his best friend Santosh, who it turned out also liked the same girl. 

So Santosh went and handed over the letters which were simply signed “Timro Pyaro….” and he never bothered telling her the letters were from Dawa and the girl it turns out kept on assuming it was Santosh writing those letters… This continued for almost 4 months, and when Santosh informed us that THE GIRL had said “yes” to him, there was a huge fight between Dawa and Santosh right there in our class. 

The fight was funny too, as I recall it, Santosh said, “तो बच्चाई छस सोम… तेरो ओंठ निचारेर दुध निकाल दिन्छु… You are just a kid, I will press your lips so hard that they will leak your mothers milk (a reference to being away from breast-milk for only a little while - young kid)” to which Dawa said “तेरो त झन् ओंठ निचारेर खुन निकाल दिन्छु… and I will pinch your lips till they bleed” and he literally pinched Santosh’s lips. Now the season was winter, nearing our final exams, and Santosh had his lips all cracked up - उसको ओंठ फुटेको थ्यो… so when Dawa pressed his lips, they indeed started to bleed. 

I guess, back in the day we were all influenced by Bruce Lee, wherein the hero wouldn’t react till he saw blood coming out from some of his parts… so Santosh wiped the blood from his lips and yelled “तेरो आमा गर्नु खुन निकालेको मेरो” and they started to fight. It was a bloody affair. Somehow, Dawa got a chance to climb one of the desks and he gave a solid kick to Santosh on his chin… I know this might sound like an exaggeration, we had all assumed that Santosh would fall flat following the kick, but he managed to stand upright… all he kept saying was “तेरो गनाउने खुट्टा उता लैजा – take away your stinking feet:” Believe it or not what had happened was this, Dawa had a huge hole on his sole, so when he kicked Santosh, the hole in the sole got stuck on Santosh’s chin, and Dawa’s feet stunk like a dead fish. 

A serious fight between two friends over the love letter and the girl went on to become stuffs that comic legends are made up of in Darjeeling. 

Such were the passions and such were the emotions attached to letters back in our days. 

Another funny incident I recall is of my best friend from Childhood (whose name I cannot write)... 

So he fell in love with this one girl and they had this serious period of "Nayn-Mattaka - ogling over each other"... Finally he decided to give it a shot... and he made Dawa write the letter and he was confident enough to deliver it himself... 

I remember that day like it was yesterday, as it was winters and we were going for Madhyamik tuition and that is where he had seen her. So confident was he, he walked right up to her, put his feet up on the bench she was sitting in and stretched one of his arms to support himself on the wall and used another to give her the letter.... 

I was a witness to this... she did not accept the letter, and said something to him... his whole face turned darkish purple (kale manche rato hunda kasto huncha... imagine a darkish man turning red?)... he came upto me and I asked him what did she say? without batting an eyelid he said, "रड्डी रैछ त्यो केटि... मलाई त तपाई को काखी गनौदै छ... दाजु नुहाएर औनोस ल हरे.. she was brutal... she told me to come after taking a shower as my armpits were stinking... "

Swear to God!! I am not making these up.

So last year that friend of mine did get married, and the first thing my younger brother said was, "Daa नया भाउजु को नाक चै बुछेकै होला है... seems like the new sister-in-law cannot smell properly" my friend had continued to stink all this while 

I often hear kids complain, that relationships don’t last long enough these days. 

Texting, I believe is what ruined relationships. Because you don’t need to put an effort to text, you just type and send in your emotions wrapped in 180 words. 

Back when we were growing up, we had to put in real effort to share our feelings, we had to think, ponder, write, re-write and at times even hire someone to write down our feelings. So we all put in an effort to get into a relationship, hence getting out of it was equally very difficult. 

These days thanks or no thanks to social media, you become friends over Facebook, fall in love over Instagram, get into a relationship on What’sApp and break–up over Twitter. 

In our times, we had to do all of that face to face, in person… and perhaps that is what kept us honest and true… You can write all you want to, but unless you do so in person, it holds no meaning. 

I am HAPPILY (wrote this under instructions from beloved wife) married and I am trying to teach my kid the art of letter writing, the art which I never possessed, and hoping to God that this will one day help her land the man of her dreams… the man who truly deserves her… 

Just the way I met her mother, I wish for my daughter to meet her future husband, face to face and not over some internet site.

Those LOVE LETTER days were golden indeed... and them days of honest love, I will forever miss!!

Via TheDC

Anber Rai and "Little Angels Children's Home" ‪Kalimpong‬

7:59 AM

THE FACES IN OUR MIDST: Mr. Om Bahadur alias Anber Rai Founder of "Little Angels Children's Home" ‪Kalimpong

Writes: Gunjan Rana

Om Bahadur alias Anber Rai saw miseries and misfortunes very early in his life. His family life was being engulfed by poverty, his school days were not worth remembering. It was the only mouthful of rice to eat and old clothes to wear. The situation could have affected him perversely, but he dared to live that too with an audacious dream. Dream to help those who were just as him.

Anber now in his mid-40s has moreover succeeded in manifesting his dream in a reality. A teacher by profession, he is a real teacher for more than 62 children that he has been educating and giving shelter for the past five years. He gave the name ‘Little Angels Children’s Home’ to his shelter as he says every child is an angel having all the qualities and potential of prospering, only the biased opportunities that society provides to a child stimulates him/her to become either an optimist or a pessimist.

In today’s world where everyone has become more individual than a part of the society, where obligation towards society has been vanished from almost everyone’s mind, Anber stands to deliver his due share of support to the underprivileged. He not only gives shelter but also burdens himself with the responsibility of giving them education, that too a qualitative one. As a primary school teacher, he was very unsatisfied by the quality of public education. Hence, he made his home a school, where he hired 12 teachers, and started educating them with all the extracurricular activities included. He said he himself was amazed when he saw that some were good in singing and some in dance. But he soon realized the government school was dying, and he thought if it died where the students will be employed, they will not be getting any benefits as well. Anber then merged his home school with Primary School where he taught with all 12 teachers that he had employed.

Still financing 62 students who are in different standards and age ranging between 7 to 17 years, and employing 12 teachers with his salary, Anber said his shelter was not an Orphanage, since the children are sons and daughters of people who are very poor hailing from Darjeeling, Sikkim, Dooars, Meghalaya and beyond, who were unable to afford education for their children. His motive is not only to uplift a child but to uplift a whole family out of poverty.

He dreams of getting them the job and higher education too, but he said, with his limited salary and few irregular funding by the local people, it was all he could do.

He needs everyone’s help, and to help him he said one can contact ‘Ashadip Charitable Trust Pedong’ or him at +919933043017

Via TheDC

Downhill in Darjeeling - Prajwal Parajuly 

9:16 AM

Writes: Prajwal Parajuly 

At Tiger Hill, Darjeeling’s famous viewing point, stands an observation tower. As early as 5am, the bottom two floors of the tower are already crammed with standing tourists. We are on our tiptoes—there’s no room. The top deck isn’t crowded. Tourists there sit on sofas that were once plush and sip tea while men stand guard at the door. These men forbid us from entering.

“No tickets,” they say in English. “Sold out.”

We say we’ll pay extra. They say all the seats are taken.

We say we’ll stand. They say that would be obstructive.

One of us speaks in Hindi. It doesn’t work.

One of us tries broken Bengali. They glare at us.

I make a final request in Nepali. They let us in.

“Aye, we thought you were Bengalis,” the burly bouncer at the door says. “You should have told us right away, and we would have let you in.”

“What if we were Bengalis?” I ask, self-righteous now that I’ve already been the beneficiary of this one-sided ethnic rivalry.

“Then, we would maybe only allow you in if you paid us.” The bouncer cackles. His friends hoot.

“That’s discrimination,” I say.

“For good reason,” the bouncer replies.

Inside, the windows are giant, the sofas comfortable enough to snooze on when the mountain—or the sun—decides to delay appearance, and if you fancy closer Kanchenjunga views, you can perch yourself on stools right by the windows. Back in the day, this viewing deck might have been cosy, even luxurious. But it’s in disrepair now. Paint is chipping off. Walls are cracked. The rugs covering some sofas are threadbare. The bathroom needs water.

Around us, mostly Western tourists, bleary eyed yet hopeful, tinker with their cameras and wait.

“It will rise today,” the burly bouncer promises. “It will.”

“Did you see the sun yesterday?” I ask. Early November is usually a great time to visit Darjeeling, but it had been a gloomy few days.

“Yes, we did,” the bouncer replies. “And the day before.”

We amuse the bouncer and his friends. We are from Sikkim, right next door, and yet we’ve dragged ourselves from bed in the cold, even before the crack of dawn, to see what we’ve been taking for granted all our lives.

“You people are behaving like exact tourists,” the bouncer jokes. “One of you must even have a monkey cap.”

We deign to laugh. He’s being snide about balaclavas, favoured by Bengali tourists, who descend on Darjeeling and neighbouring areas in droves. Singara tourists, the locals call them. Travellers on a budget who’ll haggle you down to the last rupee. Their money-spending capacity notwithstanding, the sheer number of these tourists have kept tourism alive in these hills for years.

I ask Prakash, who says he’s not a bouncer but a part-time guide, why the place isn’t well maintained.

“What do you expect, mams (brother)?” he says, slipping into lingo that’s archetypically Darjeeling. “This is Darjeeling. Do you think Bengal cares? Why shouldn’t we hate Bengalis? They’ve robbed us of all our tourism and tea revenue, and we are left with nothing. No money. No Gorkhaland. Nothing.”

“But hasn’t there been some development in the last few years?” I ask.

And that’s invitation enough for Prakash to segue into a 45-minute diatribe on everything that’s wrong with Darjeeling. As the clouds part to make way for the sun to reticently emerge and weave its magic in the sky, Prakash asks me if a place like Tiger Hill would be as poorly maintained in Sikkim. I say it wouldn’t. When shutter-happy tourists scuttle from one end of the room to another for views of the mountain changing hue, Prakash fills me in on the ill- treatment meted out to Darjeeling by West Bengal

Every trip to Darjeeling I’ve taken as an adult leaves me sadder than the last. Nature continues being bountiful. Man continues being destructive.

The click-clacking of horses on the Chowrasta, Darjeeling’s pedestrianized square, is enough to transport me to happier, carefree days. We often spent weekends here when I was a child. Gangtok, my hometown, was a long way from becoming as shiny and Swiss as it is now. Darjeeling was only a 4-hour drive away. A trip wouldn’t be complete without horses to ride on at the square, cakes to feast on at Glenary’s and schools to visit, where, it was understood we’d board for a year or two when we grew older.

Of course, the town—and all of North Bengal—was in the midst of gargantuan problems. The Gorkhaland revolution—that impassioned movement that everyone here hoped would result in the creation of the Nepali-speaking-majority state of Gorkhaland, a separate entity from West Bengal—had reached its crescendo in 1986-87. The Nepali-speaking people of West Bengal, the majority of whom live in the Darjeeling hills, demanded statehood on linguistic and ethnic grounds. It was an often-violent movement, and clashes between the agitators and the CRPF personnel were frequent. Curfews, months-long strikes and killings were normal.

Yet my family was undeterred. The minute we’d hear of things returning to normalcy, we’d pack our bags for a weekend away. We made frequent trips because Gangtok didn’t have a decent bookstore in the late 1980s. Darjeeling’s Oxford Bookstore, bang in the middle of the Chowrasta, was where I purchased my first Puss In Boots book. We went because all of us cousins had unending hankerings for the chocolate éclairs at Glenary’s. We went because the Windamere Hotel, where, we were told, the last king of Sikkim courted the American Hope Cooke, charmed us. We went because we loved to see tea leaves being crushed and curled at the many tea gardens. We went because the Kanchenjunga was visible from far more points in Darjeeling than it was from Gangtok. We went, above all, because we couldn’t get enough of Darjeeling’s toy train, songs about which—Darjeeling’s little train/is ready to start/Listen to the whistle of the guard, brother/the train’s ready to chug along—had been our lullaby since the day we were born.

It was to capture the magic of this era, to relive a bit of our childhood, that we took our most recent trip to Darjeeling. Well-meaning people had warned us. Everyone said we’d be disappointed. We reasoned that if we loved Darjeeling at the peak of the agitation, it couldn’t be so bad now. We were prepared for the worst. We were prepared to return sadder.

If reports are to be believed, all Indian hill stations are going downhill.

No piece on Kashmir spares an allusion to the gross commercialization of Srinagar. Rampant construction is proving to be Mussoorie’s undoing. Ooty has its trash problem. The monkeys in Shimla are a menace. The roads to Gangtok are horrendous. Café Coffee Days and Subways make all hill stations look like clones. Darjeeling’s biggest problem is that it hasn’t quite recovered from the agitation of the 1980s, which spawned several smaller movements, some of them as recent as two years ago. The movements—almost always accompanied by strikes, the closing down of schools and the blocking of the national highway—have done more bad than good. Add to this a state government with whom the local government is perpetually at loggerheads, and the result is massive infrastructure deficit, manifestations of which we could see at the Tiger Hill viewpoint and everywhere else in Darjeeling. That the district is a tiny, tiny part of a big state doesn’t help. The affluence of Sikkim, Darjeeling’s closest neighbour, into which the Central government funnels huge amounts of money, pinches hard.

Phurba, our driver for much of the trip, claims to have participated in the 1980s’ agitation. He says he was shot but doesn’t show us bullet marks when we ask him. Like almost everyone we speak to, he has had it with the West Bengal government. I ask him what his children do.

“Call centres in Delhi,” he says as he manoeuvres a serpentine bend toward the Padmaja Naidu Himalayan Zoological Park, where we want to see pandas. “The older one stuck around for four years after graduating from college. But there are no jobs here.”

Darjeeling’s decline is evident not just in the trash-strewn streets, the lack of water and buildings standing cheek-by-jowl but also in the rapidly dwindling youth population. Everyone complains about the absence of opportunities.

“Will they ever come back?” I ask as we whizz by lush green hills of tea. We’re barely 3km from the square, the heart of Darjeeling’s concrete jungle, and here’s 400-plus acres of pure greenery in the form of the Happy Valley Tea Estate. As though to compound the estate’s picture-perfect quality, women plucking tea leaves and depositing them into their doko baskets soon come into view.

“Only when Gorkhaland happens.”

There’s the G-word again. People may be disillusioned with their leaders. They may have little hope in their government. They may encourage their children to move to greener pastures. But everyone believes—fervently believes—that Gorkhaland will happen.

I express pessimism about Gorkhaland. Phurba isn’t too keen to discuss further.

“Don’t forget to see the Royal Bengal Tiger,” he says. “And make sure you see the (Himalayan Mountaineering) Institute Museum.”

We are let off.

The agitation of the 1980s led to the creation of a semi-autonomous body called the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. Since then, the demand for statehood has been the background score to almost all movements. Semi-autonomy has been the greatest extent to which the state and Central governments have budged. Yet another movement that started in 2007 under a different political party led to, five long years later, the abolition of the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council and the creation of the Gorkhaland Territorial Administration, supposedly slightly more autonomous than the Darjeeling Gorkha Hill Council. To the masses, there’s little difference.

We are in a meat eater’s paradise called Keventer’s. On the plate in front of me are strings of bacon, ham, salami and sausage. To my opposite are two vegetarians. A hand-written sign on a poster across the street arrests my attention.

“WE BELONGS TO SAME IDENTIFICATION AND COMMUNITY,” the poster reads. “LET WE DO UNIFICATION SIKKIM.”

I do a double take. I ask our waiter what he thinks of the proposed merger with Sikkim.

He’s a Bengali from Jalpaiguri. He doesn’t care.

“Would you like to be merged with Sikkim?” I ask a different waiter.

“I’d like Gorkhaland,” he says. He has a hopeful look.

“And if that’s not an option?”

“The second best thing would be to merge with Sikkim. We were once one.”

That’s true. Darjeeling was a part of the kingdom of Sikkim until 1780, when Sikkim surrendered Darjeeling to Nepal. When the British defeated the Nepalese in the Anglo–Nepalese War of 1814–1816, Nepal was forced to cede Darjeeling to the British East India Company. In 1817, the British returned Darjeeling to the king of Sikkim. So, yes, the Sikkim-Darjeeling merger talk has a historical backbone.

“Like Sikkim would be willing to share her fortunes with you,” I say.

“They have to help us out,” the waiter says. “We are basically the same people.”

“But think of all the trouble you’ve given us—we miss so many flights because you close off the national highway. There’s no other way for us to get to the airport.”

“But we have more in common with people in Sikkim than we do with Bengalis. Our festivals are the same. We speak the same language. We have the same culture. It only makes sense.”

“And all the schools you close off knowing that our children study here. How do you expect support from Sikkim when you’ve made so much trouble?”

The waiter doesn’t know what to say. I am aware I’ve put him in a spot.

“I know you personally didn’t cause me to miss my flight,” I say. I apologize.

We pay the bill and head to Glenary’s. The éclairs are smaller than we remember them. We can’t say if the taste has changed too. Someone at The Buzz, the basement bar at Glenary’s, shows me a picture when I bring up the issue of the Darjeeling-Sikkim merger.

“DARJEELING BELONGS TO SIKKIM. SO DARJEELING UN …” The rest of the poster has been ripped off. 

The Chowrasta, Darjeeling’s square, still smells like horse manure. I enjoy the smell. Of all the mall roads in India, this is my favourite. Gangtok’s square is too sanitized; almost all the old buildings have been torn down. The Chowrasta is dirty in comparison. Some of the stores are housed in buildings that look like they are about to collapse. One of these ancient shops is the Oxford Book & Stationery, that store of my childhood. I still have that tattered copy of Puss In Boots in my New York apartment.

I’ve promised Maya, the owner, that I’ll sign copies of my books when I am in town. As I make my way in, I marvel at the presence of a massive bookstore—so unapologetic about its size—in this location, the best possible site in Darjeeling. Oxford employs six full-time employees, one of whom, Maya says, has been with her family for more than 50 years, and another for 47. The store is spacious, conducive to browsing and well stocked. Maya says tourists this year have been few. If the number of people in the store is any indication, she doesn’t need to worry about business. The store has no problem with footfalls, I point out.

“Not everyone who’s here buys a book,” she says.

“That’s true.”

“But that’s fine. That’s how book stores should be.”

“Haven’t you been tempted to abandon the book store and open something else, do something more lucrative?” I ask. “I mean, this is prime real estate.”

“This place will always be a book store,” Maya says, with finality.

I am filled with affection for this lovely space. It reminds me of all the great book stores in my life—places that made me a writer and are now supporting me as a writer.

Outside, the clouds have vanished. The mountain wows us. The weather hadn’t been very cooperative on the day we went to Tiger Hill. Today is different. The sky is a brilliant blue. Here’s the Kanchenjunga—so close, so confident, so generous—standing sentinel over the hills. We give up taking pictures. We don’t want to trivialize the mountain, the moment.

Soon, the mountain recedes. A sarangi player restrings his instrument while his partner prepares to sing something folksy. A pony neighs and defecates on someone’s shoe. Tourists are alarmed. Locals laugh. A nervous young girl circumnavigates the square on horseback. From a makeshift stage a politician’s rants echo. He says something about Gorkhaland and unfulfilled promises. The crowd breaks into raucous applause. 

Source : Live Mint

Shiva Thapa: Punching Above His Weight

11:10 AM

Shiva Thapa is only 21, but is already the third Indian boxer after Vijender Singh and Vikas Krishan to win a World Championship medal. Like most achievements by Indian champions, Shiva Thapa’s bantamweight bronze in the World meet at Doha in October 2015 is the result of a lot of hard work and sacrifice.

Since Shiva’s father, Padam Thapa was a man of modest means. He did not think twice before selling his house, his land and his small-scale factory in Guwahati where he made make steel furniture – “only because nothing is more important to me than an Olympic medal.” Shiva Thapa’s tryst with the Olympic medal may be on hold but a World Championship medal is a no mean return.

After four daughters, his wife and Padam Thapa had two sons Govind and Shiva. So intent was the karate instructor that his offspring should reach the highest echelons of sport, he researched and concluded that there was maximum opportunity in an individual sport like boxing. So Govind and Shiva were initiated into boxing when they were nine and seven respectively and training began in their living room itself, where a punching bag was up.

An Early Start
While Padam Thapa picked up enough boxing to be able to coach them and spared no efforts to support their training, also ensuring that their education did not suffer either, the boys embraced his dream as their own. They did not protest much even when they were made to wake up as early as 3-30 a.m., so that they had enough time to study as well as train.

Shiva was first noticed at age 12, when he won his first sub-juniors gold in Noida, and was invited to train at Army Sports Institute, Pune. He continued with his sterling performances, winning silver at the Youth World Championships and Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, in 2010. Shiva marked his entry among the seniors with a gold winning performance at the Super Cup in Mumbai in May 2011, following it up with an international title winning performance, with a victory over the reigning world champion Dalakliev Detelin in Belgrade in September 2011.

Education Not Neglected
He notched up gold at the National championship at Karaikkudi in Tamil Nadu in December that year. And despite the disappointment in the Olympic Games in London in 2012, the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games in 2014, Shiva Thapa was able to justify his talent by winning the Asian Championship title in 2013.

Brimming with confidence, this new age boxer relies more on intelligence and skill to hold him up in the ring, rather than aggression and brute strength, a hallmark of the earlier lot of successful boxers from Haryana. Shiva is amongst the new breed of sportspersons, who believe in educating themselves and pursued BA through correspondence.

To be an inspiration for younger boxers at just 21 years of age is quite something, isn’t it?

Source: zevenworld.

5 Years Stain: A short story by Dumi Pratik Rai

5:03 PM
“Which party do you think would win the election this time?” Shyam asked me with his eyes still glued to the newspaper that he has been reading intensely for some time now. The early morning ‘Chai session’ has been our routine for the last many years I remember.

“Why, do you kids still have doubts that Indian Peoples Party (IPP) will clean sweep the elections with a landslide victory” spoke the Uncle from the table across. We know him as ‘uncle’ but not his name. Like us, he is one of the devoted ‘chai’ customers in the tea stall. Every morning, the tea stall becomes the hub of all local politics and it is not the ‘Special Masala Chai’ that pulls everybody, but the gossips and political chatters that takes place there. You can easily save your Rs. 5 on the newspaper just by being there at the tea stall half an hour in the morning. And it is not just politics that is discussed, people even at the UN may not be discussing about War and peace like they do there every morning. Right from Obama’s dog to Sarkozy’s new wife, movies, local fights, nagging wives, nosy girlfriends, and even sex. There is nothing under the sky that is not discussed at the tea stall every morning.  The ‘special’ in the masala chai hoarding makes absolutely no sense. What is special is the discussions and arguments every morning. They make and break governments right there sipping a glass of masala chai.

5 Years Stain: A short story by Dumi Pratik Rai


“What about our state?” quipped one toothless but bearded man from across the table. The uncle replied outright “The center rules everything. They want IPP on our state and they will make sure they come to power here in our state too.” Everyone in the tea stall seems to be nodding at the uncle’s argument. Some were miffed and pretended as if the discussion does not concern them.

Suddenly someone in the room said “That man is a demon, we should not vote him.” Everybody turn towards the person in surprise. He was speaking of one person while the rest were discussing about party politics. But everybody understood whom he alluded when he said ‘the man’.

Let me warn you all, this is the regular pattern of discussions in the tea stall. It starts from World peace, then to the center government, and then the state, then districts, downright to your municipal ward. And then when it comes to the municipal ward, it gets personal and arguments start. But, that is the regular trend and everybody is used to the routine by now. Just that when it gets too loud, you will hear the Chaiwaala shouting “Repeat chai, anyone?” Now, that’s like a librarian shouting “Silence” to bring in some decorum to the library filled with kids. And it works miraculously. People ask for a repeat, the chaiwaala makes his sale, the people find a reason to break the argument.

Shyam had just realized he has let out a monster and was now struggling to focus on reading his newspaper. He gave up in a few minutes and I had my mischievous smile on the face.  I chuckled “You invited these troubles.”

The uncle joined in the conversation “I have heard that he bribes certain groups and local youth clubs to vote for him this election.” “That bastard” someone shouted from the back. Everyone turned to the high pitch voice and he mellowed down instantly “he has swindled funds when he was working as a babu before.” There is an unsaid rule about such political discussions and shenanigans is to keep the pitch low. The low pitched voices gives a gravity and seriousness and undivided attention to the discussion. That person was not aware of the rule just like the disgusting fly which was hovering over my head constantly. I shooed it away instantly.

Another person who had stopped by for ‘chai’ on the way to his fields also shared his stand “That School teacher is also a big liar, mind you. He must be having some illegal links or how would he be able to sponsor so much funds required to contest the election.” Another person nodded and added, “I have heard he owns a big house in the city with dark glass. They say the dark glasses is to cover illegal things going on inside the so that people don’t see what’s going on inside.” I thought to myself whoever told that person about the dark glass story has played a cruel joke on that innocent soul. I wanted to burst out laughing, but then it would be against the protocols. “T for Teacher, and T for Treachery too, mind you,” the man at the far corner spoke meticulously. Everyone nodded their head in unison.

"And what about that retired army fellow?” A man who was standing some distance from us whispered. “I heard rumors he has got acres of properties registered in Nepal, owns a five star hotel in Delhi. His son is the Youth leader of our club and he himself is an old friend of the President of IPP. He seems to be the strongest contender going by his political connections."

Suddenly, uncle denounces all politicians saying “I despise these politicians.” Just a while ago he was confident of IPP winning a landslide victory, but perhaps sanity has prevailed over him for a while now “They corrupt young minds and bribe the old ones. They make promises and bring development as long as they are up on the dais delivering their lectures. The last election, this leader promised me that he would assist me to rebuild the broken wall of my compound if I voted for him.  He even came home bringing along a Bhaaley (cock) to cook and a bottle of Khattu. We drank happily and made plans about what he would do after the elections. My family of eight voted for him, all of them. We went on to win the election, but my wall is still broken. He has a secretary now with whom I must make an appointment to meet him. Shameful!!  My friends, politics is dirty,” Uncle rued. The whole gathering nodded in agreement to his revelations as if God himself had come down and spoken the words.

We paid our bills and came out of the tea stall. We could hear a few others outside from the discussion already making plans for a campaign meeting and the follow-up dinner later tonight. They were excitedly discussing the 36 Kilo Khasi that the candidate had purchased for the dinner tonight. To us, he looked like the most potential candidate to win the elections.

“So, who do you think will win this time?” I mockingly asked Shyam who was already quite irritated by the chaos inside. “All of them are of the same lot. Each one corrupted to the core. And why blame them? We ourselves are more excited about the Khasi and Khattu that they bring for us, then why complain about scams they do. The amount of money that they have to spend feeding and bribing people like us, they also need to recover what they have spent. Who are we to complain then that all politicians are corrupt?”

“Ok, we remain neutral la?” I sensed his frustration and thought it wise to end the discussion there. “We remain neutral like our great country during the Second World War, we will use “NOTA” (none of the above) option and follow the Non-Aligned Movement of our great leaders.” We both broke out laughing and parted our ways as we had to get ready for the college.

“Hey son, come here. Will you?” The old man had a military accent. He looked masculine and well-toned for a man of his age. I suspect him to be the retired army fellow from the chai discussion.

“Yes sir,” I tell him politely.

“Are you a student? I am Lance Naik Jung Bahadur.” He put out his hand for a shake with a huge grin on his face.

“Yes sir, I am.” I answer him amused, realizing where these conversation was headed to.

“You know I'm contesting in the coming MLA's election and I need young men like you to vote for me. With you and your friends support, I might be able to win. And if I win, young people like you will be blessed the most. I promise to work for developing the Youth of our contemporary society.”

“I'll support you, sir and I shall advise my friends to do the same,” I reply him politely yet again.

He grins. “That's like my man,” he laughs softly and pats me in my shoulder.
He slips his hand inside his pocket and produces a little package. The envelope has a little bulge in the center area. “For you and your friends,” he whispers.

“Yes sir,” I said.

He laughs harder. “I like you, he says. Help me and I'll help you, young man. That's a promise.”

“Yes Sir,” I fake him a salute.

As soon as I go out of his sight, I check the cash in the package. Five thousand rupees. I take my phone out and call Shyam.

Shyam: Hello

Me: Guess what?

Shyam: what?

Me: The cash has doubled.

Shyam: (Laughs) First the School teacher. Who is it this time?

Me: The retired army fellow.

Source : gyasa.org

Recognition program for Bikal Rai by Sikkim Rehab family

9:09 PM

Sikkim Rehab family organized a small simple recognition program of the neighbourhood boy Mr. Bikal Rai, the Sikkim's Wonder Boy.
Mr. Bikal Rai, shared his experiences of his life on how he overcame the problems of his life and diverted his thoughts and intention to do something constructive and pursue his dreams in life inspite of his poverty, where he too like any frustrated and broken down teenager could have walked down the path of addiction as an easy way out to escape the realities of his life. But he choose to pursue his dreams of becoming a mechanical engineer with or without support of anyone. His sharing has made a deep impact on the hearts and minds of our boys and open interaction between them has made Bikal a ROLE MODEL amongst our boys.
Bikal Rai has been hitting the social network arena past three years due to his amazing engineering skills. 23 years old Bikal Rai after completing his Class Ten in 2012 from Middle Camp Govt Sr Secondary School at Battish Number (32 No) in Nimtar East Sikkim could not continue his studies due to family problem and financial crunch after his father expired. Bikal Rai looks after his mother, granny and young brother who is studying in Class Eleven getting some earning out of agriculture farming and produces.
Despite having abandoned his schooling Bikal is passionate for assembling things to make it lively scientifically, that’s a reason he’s born talented engineer and an extraordinary boy of 32 No. village. He is fond of engineering mechanics as his previous projects which he built from junkyard stuffs caught the eyes of millions of readers who lauded his work in Facebook. This time Bikal comes up with an Eco Friendly concept car out his house based miniature workshop, which operates on IC Engine and Electric Motor technology.
According to him, he started off project seven months back, he did it by collecting spare parts of vehicles from garage junk and some parts he purchased from his savings, that which amounted him around Rs 40,000 Indian Rupees ($640).
He adds, after planning rigorously it took him last one and half month to make assembly and attach the parts giving a sounding structure finally.
Bikal Rai gave a life to scrapped 149 CC dead IC engine of motorbike with petrol as a combustion fuel for module one, he then added electric motor powered by a battery for his second module of his dual characteristic concept car.
He demonstrates his car running on the road which breaches speed beyond 40 kmph depending upon the power of engine and chassis of his car. Speaking to Bikal Rai, he told VOS that he wants to learn more, but he need to look after his family also who are totally dependent on his earnings.
Profoundly Sikkim should boast to have a talented boy like him for whom nurturing can levy him out of his circumstances making state proud someday if he could go further with his skill in a relevant engineering field where this ‘Genius Boy’s’ destiny awaits for glory.

Via : Sikkim Rehabilitation & Detoxification Society

Bir Bahadur's dream, successful 'Swashh Bharat Abhiyaan' in his village

4:43 PM
Bir Bahadur has switched his gun and baton with a broom after retiring as a CRPF man. Every morning this 65-year old man sweeps the 2 km road stretch of his village Chenga Busty under Mirik block of Darjeeling district.
Bir Bahadur
Bir Bahadur
Bir Bahadur has been cleaning the road since the day when Prime Minister Narendra Modi launched 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyan' on October 2, 2014. He wants to spread awareness among the people of having a clean and neat surrounding.

"I want to involve the villagers to make their area neat and clean by two years. This was the dream of Mahatma Gandhi and our Prime Minister Modiji who has asked people to help in making 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan' successful. I want to fulfil their dreams in my village within two years," said Bir Bahadur.

"The villagers initially thought Bir Bahadur has gone senile but now many have come to understand his noble mission.

"This old man wakes up at 4 am and starts sweeping the entire road of our village. Earlier people said that he has gone mad but now few people have joined him for the noble work which benefits the society," said a local resident Tika Sharma.

Diwakari Chhetri, the president of Chenga Nari Sewa Samity informed that Bir Bahadur comes forward to help and support needy people and in every social work.

Prashant Acharya
for I Love Siliguri

When a Request With Kodo Raksi and Ath-Ana ko Supari Was Honoured

9:51 AM
Writes: Bhushan Rai

I was attending a wedding today, where I met these two gentlemen - Janak Samal and Bhakta Bahadur Rai. They were preparing the traditional Rai snack Wachipa. I went to see how Wachipa is prepared and got talking to these two fine gentlemen, who had this incredible story to tell
When a Request With Kodo Raksi and Ath-Ana ko Supari Was Honoured

The year 1968 was a witness to the greatest natural calamity across the Darjeeling hills, insistent rain and massive landslides had caused havoc across the Darjeeling Hills, the landslide situation was so had that for decades after that a very difficult, confrontational person would be referred to as “68 ko pairo le lanu na skyeko - the one who even landslides of 1968 left behind.”

In particular the whole Mangpu region was very badly hit. Three days of heavy rains resulted in terrible landslides everywhere. Lives were lost. Cattle n orange orchards disappeared. Thatch houses damaged. People were literally on the roads.

Financial aids were hard to come by in those days.

So a theater group that was active back then decided to host a Drama TUHURI at Saraswati High School in Mungpu and they thought that inviting Aruna Lama n Saran Pradhan to perform would bring in the glamour and the much needed crowd, as the collection from the ticket sales from this program was intended to buy blankets and utensils for the effected people.

Janak Samal and Mhakta Bahadur Mama were assigned the task of meeting and convincing the great singer Aruna Lama as these two gentlemen used to work as Paani Wala near the quarter where Aruna Lama had lived while she was in Mungpu.

Imagine, the only connection they had to Aruna Lama was the fact that they used to work near her quarter once. With this vague attachment these two men left for Darjeeling, and through connections they got to meet her.

When they met her, they put a kasaa (bronze) ko plate in front of her with a bottle of kodo ko rakshi and ath-ana (8 paise) worth of supari (beetle nut) on a banana leaf and put forward their request.

And as history is witness, these things two legends, Aruna Lama and Saran Pradhan came to Mungpu and performed to a jubilant crowd after the drama TUHURI was over.

The director of this play were my bara Dip Lal Rai and my friend Saroj Thapa ko dad B L Thapa.

The age without mobile phone and Internet had its own beauty.
“Ek bottle rakshi and 50 paisa ko Supari ma ajoo ko din ma Manchay ley daraa pani dekhawdaina… these days if you make a request with kodo ko raksi and 50 paise worth of supari, people wouldn’t even bother showing you’re their teeth, let alone honouring such a big request” is what they said at the end.

.............................................................................

TheDC editorial note: We are most grateful to Mr. Bhushan Rai for sharing such an amazing story - THANK YOU!! This is what 'Darjeeling Spirit' is all about


Source: The Darjeeling Chronicle
 
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